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GAME PREVIEW: Smoke Eaters Open Three-Game Weekend In Victoria

PHOTO: Chris Fowler/Pure Life Photography

The Trail Smoke Eaters make their second and final road trip to Vancouver Island this weekend, beginning with a matchup against the Victoria Grizzlies in the provincial capital at the Q Centre on Friday night.

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Smoke Eaters vs. Grizzlies 2018/19 Schedule:

Friday, November 2nd @ The Q Centre (7:00 PM)

Sunday, January 13th @ Trail Memorial Centre (3:00 PM)

The Smoke Eaters and Grizzlies will meet for the first time of the 2018/19 season with Trail earning a pair of one-goal victories to sweep the season set. The Smokies came away with a 5-4 victory in early November at the Trail Memorial Centre thanks to a 3rd period goal from Spencer McLean before it was the Montrose, BC native who collected his first career BCHL hat-trick, capped off by the overtime winning goal, to help Trail to a 4-3 win in extra time at The Q Centre.

Trail comes into the Island road trip looking to shake what is a six-game winless stretch after a 4-2 setback to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre on Saturday night. Despite outshooting the ‘Backs 33-27, the first career BCHL goal from Layne Sniher and a tally from Braeden Tuck was not enough for the win. Adam Marcoux stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced in the game in his 8th loss of the season.

Smoke Eaters Leading Scorers:

Braeden Tuck (8-11-19)

Kent Johnson (9-8-17)

Trevor Zins (5-12-17)

Carter Jones (4-11-15)

Diarmad DiMurro (0-14-14)

Although they only see each other twice a season, the Smoke Eaters have dominated the season series against their Island Division foe over the last four seasons. Trail owns a record of 8-0-1-1 in their last 10 games against the Grizzlies, dating back to the 2013/14 season. The Smoke Eaters have gotten at least a point in each of those 10 matchups and also come into Friday holding a seven-game winning streak against Victoria with the last Grizzlies win against the Smoke Eaters coming on December 20th, 2013.

Kent Johnson continued his strong rookie season in the BCHL with a four-point weekend in games against Prince George and Salmon Arm. The 16-year-old has been in on each of the last four Smoke Eater tallies and leads the team with nine goals on the season. The Port Moody, BC native has two points in each of his last two games and has points in four of his last five contests.

A pair of games on the weekend against the Island Division could be just what the Smoke Eaters need as they have had some good success against the division this season. Trail is 4-1-1-1 against the Island Division during the 2018/19 campaign, including points in each of their last four games against teams from the Island Division. The last time the Smoke Eaters made their way to Vancouver Island, in early October, the club collected four of a possible six points on the weekend.

The Victoria Grizzlies come into Friday night’s contest after a weekend on the Mainland, earning two wins in three games and finished off with a 6-2 victory over the Surrey Eagles at the South Surrey Arena. Alex Newhook and Carter Berger scored twice in the game for the Grizzlies while Cameron Thompson and Marty Westhaver added singles in the four-goal victory. Kurtis Chapman was sharp in the victory, turning away 39 of the 41 shots he faced in the game for his 11th win of the season.

Grizzlies Leading Scorers:

Alex Newhook (11-19-30)

Alexander Campbell (9-16-25)

Carter Berger (10-13-23)

Cameron Thompson (8-9-17)

Riley Hughes (6-11-17)

The Grizzlies have 11 players returning from the 2017/18 version of the team, including team captain and leading scorer Alex Newhook. Lach Hadley, Marty Westhaver, Jordan Guiney, Cameron Thompson and Ryan Nolan joining him up front while Nico Somerville, Cole Noble and Carter Berger came back on the blue line. Kurtis Chapman and Zachary Rose return in goal for the Grizzlies this season, although Rose has not been able to get into a game this season due to an injury.

The focal point of the Grizzlies, and deservingly so, is 17-year-old captain Alex Newhook, who returns for his second season in Victoria and is drawing plenty of attention from National Hockey League scouts. The St. Johns, New Foundland native is 2nd in league scoring with 30 points in 20 games and, after getting off to a bit of a slow start, has collected 15 points in his last 8 games. Newhook is expected to be a first-round pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, BC with some scribes ranking him as high as 12th in mock drafts.

With the return of Newhook as well as the excellent start to the season from rookie Alexander Campbell, it’s no surprise the Grizzlies have rocketed towards the top of the BCHL in goals for. Victoria sits second in the league with 76 goals, trailing the Merritt Centennials, who have 79 for the lead. That mark has helped the Grizzlies to an Island Division lead with a record of 12-7-0-1, which sees them three points ahead of the Powell River Kings for the top spot.

The Smoke Eaters and Grizzlies get things going with the opening puck drop at 7:00 PM from The Q Centre with the pre-game show taking place at 6:50 PM on mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as HockeyTV.com with the Voice of the Smoke Eaters, Trevor Miller.